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30 years on, Kerna's flag-winning play

Tony De Bolfo, Carlton Media  August 26, 2017 11:45 AM

13. 1987 - Kernahan after the siren Carlton Member, Glenn Mitchell, relives his memories of Stephen Kernahan's match-winning goal in Round 22, 1987

Ponder the most significant goal ever kicked by a Carlton footballer and it’s hard to go past Fred Stafford’s snap to sink Essendon in the dying seconds of the ’47 Grand Final.

But fast forward to the last home and away round of 1987 – Round 22 versus North Melbourne at VFL Park – and Stephen Kernahan’s post-siren slot from the pocket runs a very, very close second. For it was this goal – the great man’s sixth for the afternoon – that delivered top spot, the double chance and a week’s break.

In short, this was the goal that delivered Carlton its 15th Premiership.

With his team two points in arrears, and with seconds left on the clock, Kernahan took an incredible pack grab despite the best efforts of North Melbourne’s Mark Hepburn, with Alastair Clarkson - floating around in the back pocket for North - arriving too late on the scene.

SK 1987 Image 1


SK 1987 Image 2

SK 1987 Image 3

Though Kernahan had top spot in his hands when the final siren blew, the great man was typically understated when interviewed post-match.

“The pressure was on and I was a bit nervous,” Kernahan was quoted saying in the winner’s circle afterwards. “I was on a bit of an angle, so I just tried to kick cleanly, hoping it would go through the middle. I had all night to kick it, so I took my time, I just wanted to make sure everything was fine.” 

Mark Kleiman, then in his third year as a Carlton trainer, stood alongside Adrian Gleeson and watched on as the captain completed that unforgettable play – slotting his sixth to seal the famous win – 20.9 (129) to 19.11 (125).

“I was only talking to ‘Rhys’ (David Rhys-Jones) about it at the ’87 reunion lunch on Friday. He said ‘I remember you looking on from behind’ and at that stage neither of us knew whether Hawthorn had got up,” Kleiman said.

“It was one of all-time great pressure goals given what was riding on the game and the fact that the game had been tight with the lead changing all day.

“You can safely that ‘Sticks’’ goal won Carlton the ’87 Grand Final. It was a big goal.”


John ‘Sam’ Newman, then reporting for Footy Week, could not have been more prophetic in his assessment of THAT goal. The following is what he reported:

I hope people understand the skill and pressure involved in Stephen Kernahan’s brilliant goal which secured top spot for Carlton because it could be the goal that wins the Grand Final. The after-siren goal guaranteed the Blues a week’s rest and this could prove to be the key factor in the premiership race. It was a brilliant goal not only because of the pressure but also the difficulty of the shot. He was on a 55-degree angle and the fact that he was 15 metres out made it even more difficult because from that angle the closer you get the harder it is. Kernahan kicked it beautifully and the ball went straight through without deviating from centre. I don't think anyone who hasn’t played VFL football could understand the pressure on the young Carlton captain because a lot was riding on that kick. The general public may dismiss it as an easy shot for goal but l can tell you that was one of the most difficult goals I have ever seen.